The English and Foreign Languages University has filed a criminal case (dated: 11/09/13) against six students (four students from the SC/ST/OBC communities and two women students) with the Osmania Police Station (Case Details: Crime No. 350/2013 U/S 153 (A) IPC). They are charged with the grave offence of, “Promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony…”
The memo served by the police does not provide any details of the “offence” the said students have allegedly committed. We can only surmise that the complaint has been filed for organizing and/or participating in the EFLU Asura Week (9th September to 15th September).
As part of the EFLU Asura Week, which was meant to reclaim the university space for marginalized cultural practices, each day of the week dedicated to an Asura icon and programmes were held for students to participate in. These programmes consisted of a face-painting competition, art installation (Theme: Surpanakha), a public canvas painting (Theme: Memories of Oppression), open forum (Resisting Dominance: Articulating Cultural Resistance) and an academic seminar (Title: Reinterpreting Indian History: Redefining Secularism in University Spaces).
We would like to point out that the University administration, at no point, expressed any discontent—official or unofficial—with the organization of the Asura Week. The administration has in fact over-rided all procedures of enquiry and disciplinary action provided in the University Ordinance (warning, written apology, bond of good behaviour etc.) and approached the police. As you may be aware, this is not the first time that the university proctorial board has failed to follow the requisite procedure and made students vulnerable to police action.
The present administration is systematically demolishing all possibilities of resistance and debate in the name of “discipline”, and “security”. It seems practically impossible to express one’s differences with dominant notions and ideas without being accused of indiscipline, criminality, violence etc. Even if the administration was compelled to find “indiscipline” in activities such as face-painting, academic debates, etc., why has there been no attempt to communicate this to the concerned participants?
The Supreme Court explicitly orders,“…that acts of indiscipline and misbehavior on the part of the students must primarily be dealt within the institution and by exercise of the disciplinary authority of the teachers over the students and of the management of the institutions over the teachers and students. Students ought on to ordinarily be subjected to police action unless it be unavoidable. The students going to educational institutions for learning should not remain under constant fear of being dealt with by police and sent to jail and face the courts. The faith in the teachers for the purpose of maintaining discipline should be restored and the responsibility fixed by emphasizing the same.” (Supreme Court of India, 4th May 2001; Equivalent Citations: AIR 2001 SC 2814, 2001 (3) SCALE 503, (2001) 6 SCC 577)
In the absence of any official objection from the administration, we are utterly shocked by these severe allegations. The concerned students await a written intimation from the Registrar and the Proctor describing the exact nature of the “provocation” that led the administration to approach the police. We feel that such an action on the part of the administration is not only excessive but amounts to intimidation and threats against students who participate in any form of democratic critique (protest, protest-art, academic discussions, general body meetings etc.).
We, as students of this University will not accept such criminalization of cultural expressions from marginalized communities. We shall not be silent to attempts to curb and decimate our democratic rights of critique and discourse. And we strongly condemn the inefficacy of an administration that has to solely depend on police force to initiate any dialogue with its students.